I can’t quite figure out what to think of the fact that Kate, our oldest daughter, was the one of our three kids who seemed to need the most coaching; and now at 22, she’s expert and forthright. I look up to her for thoughtful advice. Yesterday, she was really on her game.
She well knows that coaching – or call it feedback, analysis, or advice – is only coaching when it’s heard as coaching. By contrast, when the client, child, co-worker or spouse is not bought in, then well-intentioned coaching can sound like a harangue, patronizing, naive, etc. That’s exactly what transpired with my wife earlier on the weekend. She was pretty animated complaining – a pretty rare occurrence, by the way – about an event she was committed to attend. “Are you open to some coaching?” I asked, perhaps sensing she wasn’t in the mood for it. “What?” she asked. This was not exactly permission, I knew. As I have coached others: you have to pay attention to the music as well as the lyrics! The lyric was asking “what” I had to say. The music was hardly so welcoming.
“So,” I reflected back to her, “I can tell by your tone of voice that you’re really not interested. What’s going on with that?” She explained back to me what she predicted I was going to say. She was mostly right. I pressed on ahead saying that I wanted to say something else. And I did. I can’t even remember how she responded. It certainly wasn’t with praise and thanksgiving! Yesterday night I recounted to Kate what had happened.
True to form, Kate asked, “Are you open to some coaching about that?” “Definitely,” I said, grateful, impressed and proud at her self-confidence (and excellent coaching form 🙂 ). She said that often when I had coached her growing up, she just had not been in a position to hear it. She was in the throes of the emotion around a situation, and it was impossible to shift into a cognitive or abstract mind frame. “Mom was probably just venting. She wasn’t telling you that she needed or wanted help.” It’s embarrassing how obvious good coaching can sound sometimes. I felt like an idiot.
I was an “emotional idiot” in not reading cues better. And I was also making a huge fundamental mistake. I was “all about me” – in this case my idea about Jennifer’s situation. But it was her world, emotion, ambivalence, and processing that mattered; not my idea. If I was to add value, I’d have had to understand what she wanted – if anything – from me. Sometimes there’s room to challenge someone’s thinking or emoting, but I’m probably not the only one who barges ahead without realizing this is often, just not what’s desired.
Kate’s summary was pretty good: If you’re in Jennifer’s shoes, say ahead of time that you’re looking for venting not coaching. And in my shoes, reverse my assumption that people really want my coaching, and instead focus in on the client’s or spouse’s or kid’s need instead. Great coaching, doncha think to help
Lead with your best self!